Stress is a weird thing. It serves a purpose, or at least it used to. See, back in the time when it was much more likely that on a daily basis you could be eaten by tigers and such, it was a good thing to have what's called a "fight or flight response". That means your brain and body would get all primed up to either kick some ass, or run like hell, in order to survive. Survival is good for a species, so stress and anxiety is what allowed your distant ancestors to stay alive, and hence produce progeny such as yourself.
But in the modern era, even though there are plenty of dangers out there, it's actually pretty rare that something is going to eat you. So, the physical effects of stress itself, on a general basis, are worse than the perceived threat. These days, it's much more likely that less lethal things -- a work deadline, an argument with a friend, and so on -- will trigger that same deeply rooted response, and dump adrenaline into your bloodstream as if that tiger was still chasing you across the savannah. While stressed, your nervous system gets primed to survive in many ways, but most of the time, you're not really in need of that kind of physical response. You're left with those unfortunately familiar symptoms of stress itself. It's not fun.
Rockin' in a winter wonderland. Photo and top photo by Cicadetta Stillwater.
Why am I talking about this? I had a stress-packed day yesterday. Around the holidays, that's certainly not unusual for anyone. For me, I get a double-whammy every fall and early winter. The industry in which I work in real life -- the music/audio products business -- has its biggest event of the year every January, and preparation for it has taken up much of my mindshare every December in the past 20 years I've dealt with it. So, despite my usual easygoing and fun demeanor, I am every bit as susceptible to the effects of stress as the next person, and yesterday it sucker-punched me. I spent most of the day working like a fiend, and hardly felt like doing a fun-filled live music show that evening.
However, there's one advantage to having some age and experience under your belt, and it's that you know yourself pretty well after awhile. For me, performing is like going into the ocean. As you first feel the water hitting your toes and legs, you're thinking that it's way too cold to be getting in the water. When it first splashes your midsection, you start thinking you're insane for doing this at all. However, as soon as you fully submerge yourself, it feels terrific. And that's what getting onstage is like for me. No matter how bad my day has been, no matter how little I think I feel like being entertaining, as soon as I dive in with my first strum of the guitar, I am very happy to be there.
My view from the stage. Just life real life, it's not always easy to see when you're in the spotlight. I actually requested my audience to all come closer to the stage so I didn't feel like I was performing alone in a giant snowy meadow. They obliged. I have a thoughtful audience. Photo by Cicadetta.
Last night at Key West was a good example of this phenomenon. I arrived at the venue, and my buddy Taunter Goodnight was performing. Taunter, as they would say in her home state of Minnesota, is a hoot. She's a funny and fun-filled lady with a big voice and a great attitude, and just hearing her do her show while I got ready for mine had me feeling much more cheery than I had a few minutes earlier.
My show ended up being fine. I get to pull out some music during this season that I don't play often throughout the year, so that's always a cool thing for me. We had a nice crowd that was made up of a few hardcore Zaksters as well as the leftovers from Taunter's show, and the folks who were coming to see Savannah Coronet perform after me. All in all, it went really well, and I've been in a better mood ever since.
Key West Set List...
Long December (Counting Crows)
†Walk on the Wild Side (Lou Reed)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
The Needle and the Damage Done (Neil Young)
After the Goldrush (Neil Young)
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Traditional)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Jane (Barenaked Ladies)
Pink Moon (Nick Drake)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
Any Major Dude (Steely Dan)
†Only did this great Lou Reed tune once before. I should do it more often.
Big thanks to everyone who came out to Key West, especially those who helped support my show!
Kat Claxton, Savannah Coronet, Alexis Fairlady, Marissa Goodliffe, Wolf Overland, Cicadetta Stillwater, Gracie Hyland, mhickale Keneinan, Taunter Goodnight, Key West hostess Coreopsis Bluebird, and owner Liz Harley!